The Luxurist

A compendium for luxury living

Meet The Tastemaker

Million Dollar Closets: Lisa Adams from LA Closet Design

The ultimate closet designer to the stars talks luxury and organisation

Jon Sharpe By Jon SharpeChief Creative Officer

Getting lost in a sea of Chanel, playing with an extensive collection of Birkin bags and admiring this season’s most sought-after accessories – no you are not dreaming. Welcome to Lisa Adams’ daily to-do list – the heart and Louboutin-sole of her job as the CEO and designer of LA Closet Design. Day-in day-out  Lisa goes inside the holy grail of glamness – the wardrobes of the who’s who. She is a closet designer and her aim, she explains, is “to create wardrobe and storage spaces that are balanced functionally and aesthetically”. Her art-gallery-worthy creations to date have been commissioned by the rich and famous set, including Kris Jenner, Kyle Richards (from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), Billy Crystal, Simon Cowell, Giuliana Rancic and Whitney Port. Now don’t go thinking of Adams as just another interior designer whose skills extend to closets. She is to wardrobes what Michelangelo was to the roof of the Sistine Chapel. This is a fine art. One of her more extravagant projects includes a three-story closet that requires a retina scan to enter. But before you go all crazy Googling her name, let us do the legwork for you.

Recently I caught up with Lisa by the pool on the sun-drenched rooftop at London West Hollywood in LA and we hit it off instantly. Pint-sized, gorgeous and smiley, she is vivacious and made me completely forget about my jet-lagged haze. As eager to get chatting as I was to hear how she paved the way to such an amazing career, Lisa begins by explaining that it didn’t start out how one might think. “I went to school at Berkeley and studied chemistry. I was a chemist and was in the PhD programme. When I finished my masters I thought, ‘You know what? I don’t know if I want to do this’.” Passionate about science and research, the brunette beauty says, at the end of the day, “it was very isolating with no people interaction so I didn’t know if I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.”

Following this epiphany, the now sought-after closet guru went to business school and began working in design on the operation side for a kitchen and bathroom firm at the Pacific Design Centre. “Back then people were all about kitchens and occasionally we got calls for closets, so I thought, ‘You know what, why aren’t people doing closets?’” This discovery led the Hawaiian-native to do some research and find out that nobody was “doing it the way I felt like it needed to be done. There were closet companies but nobody high-end luxury doing them. Like you’ve got interior designers who do closets but not a closet designer.”

With her creative inclination and sunshiny personality, it’s no surprise the designer went on to head up the closet division for the company she was working for as well as attending school at the same time at UCLA for design. “I never realised,” Lisa explains, “how methodical the closet really needs to be so the chemistry part – the left side – of my brain really got fed.”

With her scientist’s hat to cover the technical side of closets, Lisa was equally excited about showing people just how far they could push the design and creative parameters for wardrobes so in 2007 LA Closet Design was born. It has been an amazing experience that has allowed Adams to educate people to care about their closets. The process includes everything from inventory right through to installation. “You get very intimate with [people] very quickly,” she smiles. “You’re in underwear drawers, and you know, you’re really in there.”

The creative has gotten to know a few celebrities quite intimately over the years including Giuliana Rancic, whose closet she recently did in LA. “[She is] lovely as lovely can be. I would have to say she’s my favourite,” Adams enthuses. “Just very down to earth.” She explains that the E! presenter’s closet was a mixture of stuff that she gets from the show – “A lot of designers but then a lot of Gap and J Crew.” Whereas, she tells me, “Kris Jenner’s closet is all name brand”.

But before the really creative part can begin there is the very necessary first step – the interview and inventory phase which can last for hours. “There is a very important Q&A portion to this process. The questions we ask are like: What do they do? What is the lifestyle? How do you get dressed? Are you somebody that has to wear a suit to work everyday? Are you exercising in the morning?” The designer enthuses that this is how she is able to build a closet to match her client’s needs.

Once the interview is out of the way, the LA Closet Design team can spend all day counting and measuring clothes, bags, heels, boots and accessories. They take note of everything: bags with chains that might need to be hung; silk scarves that might need to be draped; tall boots that need a high area to be stowed away in. This meticulous process is to ensure that a closet is then designed precisely and, no, there’s not a shirt hanging out of place on a shelf below. A lot of the design decisions centre around the desire to want to see everything in a wardrobe Lisa says. “So whether it’s in a pull-out shelf, hanging or on a rack, you see everything. Because if you don’t see it you don’t wear it.”

Now that the organising is taken care of, it’s onto the real creative stuff: designing, fabricating, building, carefully selecting drawer inserts, linings, lighting and flooring. So just how far has Lisa pushed the envelope with closets? Just how far does her super-luxury clientele want to go? Well, I am told, as far as a three-story closet. It was for a client in Bel Air. “It was literally like a Neiman Marcus or a department store,” she says. Each floor was for a different type of outfit, casual, tailored and then seasonal. “[We also did] a jewellery room that had an iris scanner to get in,” she adds.

The process, from initial interview to closet completion, can take anywhere from six months to a year. But on the fast track Lisa says “It can be a little shorter than that, but on average, even just as I submit final drawings to my fabricator it takes him probably a good two to three months just to build.” At this point you’d be forgiven, if like us, you are completely intrigued about other wardrobes LA Closet Design has done. Well, you’re in luck. Adams has filmed a one-hour TV show called Million Dollar Closets – following her process and showcasing her work at the Jenner’s house as well as for her repeat client, Whitney Port. The show aired in the US on HDTV and negotiations are underway to create a TV series. “Right now we’re negotiating a new deal,” Lisa explains. “We’re switching to Style Network so that should be coming up soon.” Of the show, she says we can expect to see into many more of her clients closets. “I’ve done three closets now for Whitney,” Lisa tells me. She has also organised Simon Cowell’s and done Billy Crystal’s wardrobe of which she tells me, “He is a fan of baseball so we did one section for all of his baseball jerseys and then one section for all of his tuxedos for the Oscars.”

With such success in LA – she has created closets in LA, New York, Boston, Houston, Texas, Philadelphia, Hawaii, Australia and Dubai – things are not slowing done. She is also now working on a suitcase line with Max Mirani that should be coming out this Christmas. “It’s called Mobile Closet,” the designer enthuses. “I’m so excited about it. It’s basically everything you’d think about in a closet in terms of all the luxurious touches and doing that in a carry-on suitcase.”